Cordwainer Smith is one of those science fiction writers whose name is uttered with reverence, though he isn’t very well-known to the casual genre reader. Though he only completed one novel during his brief writing career, Smith’s creations all share an internal history and universe called The Instrumentality of Man. It’s a far-future vision, 14,000 years from now, where humans have genetically melded and unmelded with machines and animals and evolution has become a matter of choice, not unlike plastic surgery today.
Cordwainer Smith also wrote fascinating non-fiction on Chinese political theory in the 1960s under his real name, Paul Linebarger. Smith’s non-fiction writing is just as enthralling and complex as his science fiction, though the end results are vastly different.
Truly an original, as much today as he was in the pulp era, Smith’s influence can be seen in the cerebral works of authors like China Mieville and Iain Banks. If you’re in the mood for something different, dark and brainy this is the Space Opera for you!